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What Is It That Your Church Can Do?
March 17, 2020, 1:00 PM

Wow! What an amazing and incredible few weeks have just passed. I know I never imagined things unfolding as they have up to now. Who knows what the next few weeks hold for us?

 

I am concerned; I wouldn't want anyone to get very sick or perish from this virus. But I am not worried. A long time ago I decided to let God take care of the world in general and me in particular. What I do worry about is how closely I am following him day in and day out.

 

But this self-imposed social distancing has caught many Christians and churches unprepared. I'll address that one day when this is behind us for the most part. Right now, the question is what do we do in response.

 

It’s OK to be worried or frightened; and it certainly is OK to feel as if everything has been turned upside down. But while you are feeling like that, turn to God. He is inviting you to. One of Jesus’ twelve disciples once wrote these words to other believers living in difficult times: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while.” (1 Peter 5: 6-10)

 

So turn those feelings over to God. He loves you and cares for you. He is aware of what you are going through and how you are feeling. But you can rest in him.

 

That is one thing Christians have going for them in a situation like this. We don’t have to fear the unknown. We believe that God knows what each day holds before it ever begins. We also believe he can handle whatever happens here on earth whether it is a terrible war, a devastating storm, a disheartening medical report or even death itself. We don’t have to fear anything while we are under the love and protection of God. We Christians feel that peace, but many of our neighbors who haven’t asked Jesus into their lives do not have that sense at all. What a tremendous opportunity for you to visit with them, encourage them, and tell them about the trust you have placed in Jesus.

 

Another thing Christians have going for them in a situation like this is that we are already organized to help others – or at least we should be. Christians gather together with other Christians in their community in a local church. There are churches, or groups of Christians, all over the world – even in places where they have to gather secretly without the permission of the local government. Long before this virus became a pandemic, churches should have been working to meet various needs among their neighbors in the community they are in.

 

Now, those churches can fine-tune their ministry work to address needs that have developed as a result of the pandemic and subsequent social distancing. Who is any better prepared or gifted to help others than a church? Schools are feeding children while classes are not meeting. Restaurants are offering free food to children in communities once a week. Stores have set aside shopping times for older adults and other ‘at risk’ shoppers and limited quantities of high-demand items.

 

So what is it that your church can do during these unusual times? There are opportunities all around us – just look. Pray and ask God to guide you to do something that will help others. What fresh ways can your church BE the church right where you are? Can your deacons visit shut-ins and older adults on Sunday morning and watch a live stream of your pastor’s message with them? Can you form ‘cleaning teams’ who will go to a home and help to disinfect it? Many are working fewer or even no hours so they will be earning less money. Can your church help them with groceries or power bills? Can school teachers in your church meet with struggling students in your building to use this time for some remediation? How might you put others to work serving in your community during these days? Let your imagination go! Don’t think about how things were done before the virus arrived. Try to look at the world around you with a fresh perspective.

 

And don’t forget, Easter will be here in a few weeks (April 12). Instead of having a church-wide or community-wide Sunrise service, what would it look like if a couple of families that live near each other gathered in the front lawn of one of their homes to celebrate the resurrection with scripture, prayer and music? Or better yet, what if your church families hosted a sunrise service for the neighbors on their block? Instead of presenting a musical program in your building, why not have the choir make personalized recordings for residents in a local nursing home they can keep and play in their rooms over and over?

 

I know you’ve never done that before, but hey, we’ve never done social distancing on such a large scale before. So everything is new. And that’s OK, because God loves new things. His mercies are new every day. God told Isaiah, “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 19)

 

This is a tremendous opportunity to love and serve others. Don’t miss out. If you will focus on taking care of others, I can promise you God will focus on taking care of you. He already is.

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